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Undergraduate James Sinoimeri Receives Provost's Creative Endeavor Award

April 26, 2018

Undergraduate Chemical Engineering student James Sinoimeri pictured in July 2017

Chemical engineering student James Sinoimeri '21 was awarded the Undergraduate Advanced Research/Creative Endeavor Award for his research project entitled, "Developing Hypoxia-Inducing Cryogels (HIC) to Produce more Realistic 3D Tumor Models" which he will complete under the guidance and supervision of Professor Sidi A. Bencherif, Dr. Thibault Colombani, and the BioLamp Lab Team.  The Northeastern Office of the Provost grants this award to support compelling undergraduate projects executed under the mentorship of faculty. Although the advanced award is typically reserved for upperclassmen students in at least their third year of undergraduate study, James was able to win the award as a sophomore.

James’ research explores designing a biomaterial that can accurately mimic various facets of tumor’s microenvironment, including inducing a temporal and spatial oxygen gradient with the aim of shaping a more realistic laboratory 3D cancer tumor model. Recent advances in oncology emphasize the critical implications of the tumor microenvironment in both cancer development and resistance to therapeutics. There is a body of evidence that suggests the composition and biomechanical cues of the extracellular matrix (ECM) have a dramatic impact on tumor development and metastasis. Additionally, hypoxia, a physiological condition whereby cells are deprived of sufficient oxygen due to blood vessel anatomy or shortage, has been shown to be a crucial factor implicated in cancer cell proliferation, migration, metastasis, and resistance to anti-cancer therapeutics.

James shares, “This project represents an unquestionably large significance to the field of oncology. Recently, advances in understanding cancer development, progression, and resistance to therapeutics have highlighted the critical implication of tumor microenvironment in the tumorigenesis process. To recapitulate the particular microenvironment found in the body, biomaterials have been used extensively to generate more realistic ex-vivo cancer models. However, no current biomaterial models have been able to accurately recreate the biophysical and biochemical cues of tumors’ extracellular matrix, or induce a stable hypoxic environment. As a result, even the most sophisticated current cancer models lead to poor therapeutic efficacy predictions, which has dramatically halted cancer drug development. This large shortcoming has led to a huge demand for a new class of biomaterials that can properly emulate the body’s complex tumor microenvironment. All in all, with this project, I expect to successfully engineer an original new tumor-mimicking model using hypoxia-inducing cryogels. These laboratory tumor models are expected to have the capacity to revitalize cancer research efforts by finally providing a sufficient tool to investigate the connection between hypoxia and any type of cancer. Once this link has been found, our model is expected to further serve as an invaluable tool for drug developers by accurately producing the cancerous, hypoxic microenvironment found in the human body, allowing researchers around the world to finally be able to properly test and develop anti-cancer drugs with accuracy and reliability.”

James plans to graduate from Northeastern University in 2021 with a BS/MS degree in chemical engineering, and then work in the industry for a few years before going back to earn his Ph.D. He shares, “My work in Professor Sidi Bencherif’s BioLAMP Lab has allowed me to discover a strong passion for cancer research and biotechnology. Starting this May up to the end of December, I will be working as a co-op with the Biologics Formulation Group at Takeda Oncology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I will be responsible for formulation development of protein-based cancer therapeutics for clinical trials and the final drug product, as well as developing and scaling manufacturing processes to global manufacturing sites. Words cannot express how excited I am to begin this new position; I feel like it’s exactly what I want to do upon graduation. The position will be a great experience to see if it truly is a good fit for me. The tremendous impact that cancer research represents makes the work fulfilling, and is what motivates me to give 110% everyday.”

James’ project is expected to be completed by the end of the summer, and his research findings communicated to the scientific community through a peer-reviewed publication.